Category: Archive

Woman wins top union post

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A Northern Ireland woman is to lead the Irish trade union movement into the next millennium. The new president of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is Inez McCormack, who represents more than 30,000 public-service workers as regional representative of the London-based UNISON.

McCormack, a strong civil rights supporter, was elected as head of the umbrella group for 65 unions representing almost 700,000 workers north and south of the border.

She takes over as ICTU prepare for discussions on a new social partnership deal in the Republic. It also faces major challenges as it moves into the new millennium amid unparalleled prosperity and with a peace process that promises to transform North-South relations.

McCormack, who’s 53, has been campaigning for women’s rights in the trade union movement for more than 20 years.

Originally from a Protestant background in Holywood, Co. Down, she plans to ensure that in a few years having a woman president of ICTU is not "a startling notable exception but begins to be a norm."

Follow us on social media

Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo

"It is historic that I hold this position," she said. "I am the first ever woman from the North, but what I need to do is ensure that I remember that hundreds of thousands of women in Ireland are not through the concrete floor, never mind the glass ceiling that I have allegedly broken."

A strong supporter of the Good Friday agreement, she was appointed to the newly established Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission by Northern Secretary Mo Mowlam in March.

She became the first female officer with the National Union of Public Employees in Northern Ireland in 1976. It represents many low-paid women, thousands of them working part-time. Membership has doubled in the last 18 years at a time when many other unions have shrunk and it is now a branch of UNISON.

McCormack said social partnership either in the South or with new assembly institutions in the North should ensure there are mechanisms that would include the most disadvantaged whether they be people with disability, those in great poverty or women.

She said the partnership deals in the south since 1987 have produced enormous prosperity, advantages and stability but there was an outsider community that had not participated in the progress.

"I would like to see my role as understanding what is like to be an outsider in Northern Ireland, to try to actually get that focus into partnership discussions."

The trade union movement represents those in work, but it must not be a sectional movement and it also had a responsibility for the unemployed and disadvantaged.

"The Celtic Tiger can roar, but if those outside looking at it feel more and more alienated that they cannot be part of it, then I don’t think there is a functioning society," she said.

She also pledged to take a determined stand on racism and the treatment of the Traveler community and asylum seekers.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese